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No ‘clean hands’ in dispute over muscle car work, COA finds

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A dispute over work done on a 1973 Dodge Challenger led the Indiana Court of Appeals Monday to find the car’s owner may challenge a mechanic’s lien that a shop used to auction the car.

The 31-page opinion in Terry Banks v. Denny Jamison, d/b/a, Automotive Hammerart, 49A02-1304-PL-362, found vehicle owners have a right to challenge a mechanic’s liens when disputes arise about the work performed. The appeal attracted an amicus brief from the Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana, which argued in favor of affirming summary judgment for Denny Jamison.

Banks took the car to Jamison’s shop, but he claims Jamison did far more work than authorized, and Banks disputed a bill that exceeded $5,000. Jamison claims the work was authorized and that Banks did not contest a possessory mechanic’s lien he perfected or attempt to halt an auction of the car for which he was served notice.

The Court of Appeals panel majority affirmed summary judgment in favor of Jamison on Banks’ civil claims of theft and conversion, but it ruled that Banks may proceed with a claim in Marion Superior Court under the Deceptive Consumers Sales Act.

The majority rejected Jamison’s claim that Banks was estopped from arguing the unauthorized work was done after the mechanic’s lien was perfected. The panel also concluded the lien was invalid because there was no indication Banks was served.

"The possessory mechanic’s lien statute provides some guidance to a lien holder about the procedure for perfecting and foreclosing on a mechanic’s lien. While the statute provides that a vehicle 'may be sold at public auction' if the vehicle owner 'does not claim the vehicle and satisfy the mechanic’s lien on the vehicle,' Ind. Code § 9-22-6-2(g), the statute is silent on how or when a person may challenge a possessory mechanic’s lien," Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the majority, joined by Judge Cale Bradford.

"As we hold below, once proper service of the lien notice is obtained, unless and until the General Assembly provides for an adequate forum for the resolution of conflicting claims, the owner will have an adequate opportunity to challenge the validity of the lien, either through a replevin action or, once notified of the claimed lien, through a declaratory judgment action."
 
The ADAI in its amicus brief argued that to “permit Banks to challenge the validity of the mechanic’s lien after it has been foreclosed, and all statutory foreclosure procedures have been completed, would render the mechanic’s lien statute worse than useless.”

Mathias wrote that neither party came to the appeal with “clean hands.”

“Jamison could have offered, and Banks could have demanded, a written and signed estimate of the work to be performed that included Banks’s contact information. That single, simple step would have allowed both parties to avoid the expensive legal journey that has brought them before this court,” Mathias wrote.

The majority found that despite highly disputed facts in this case, the record shows Jamison didn’t act in bad faith. But Judge Rudolph R. Pyle III was unconvinced. He wrote that he concurred with most of the majority’s ruling but would also reverse summary judgment to allow Banks’ civil theft and conversion claims to proceed.

“This case is ripe for trial. The facts are so highly disputed that a jury is required to observe the facial expressions of the parties, listen to the tenor of their voices, and make a decision regarding their credibility. I believe Banks is being denied his day in court,” Pyle wrote.

 
 

 
 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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